Walt Disney World Disney Springs Shopping Dining

Discovering Disney Springs

For our first family trip to Disney, we were lucky to get non-stop flights from Boston to Orlando at pretty reasonable times. That meant we could have breakfast and surprise Miss O with the trip in the morning and be on Disney property by that afternoon. It also meant we could spend most of Saturday doing Disney things before our flight left. It did not mean we would have enough time or energy for a park on either day and didn’t want to waste a park ticket on a partial day. This is where Disney Springs, a big open-air mall area with dining, shopping and entertainment becomes and excellent, ticket-free place to spend time.

On arrival day, we knew we wanted to explore our hotel, the Art of Animation Resort, and see the differently themed areas. We hoped we’d have enough time to get some pool time in as well before dinner. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out that way, but we did have enough time to get refreshed in our rooms, get on the shuttle and head over to Disney Springs for dinner.

We had 5:45 PM dining reservations at the Rainforest Café, which to be clear, was no one’s first choice. We were going to take the kids to T-Rex, but the first reservation I was able to get was a little earlier than we liked and we opted to change our restaurant to get a more conducive time. I was also a little worried that Miss O would not be as thrilled about the dinosaurs as Mr. A would be. They’d both been to Rainforest Café in our local mall, so we already knew how to handle the “storms.”

Dinner was decent, with several gluten-free options for me and huge portions all around. Miss O was far more concerned with coloring, dessert and the gift shop. Service was a little slow, but the place was packed. I was exhausted from a long day and intense emotions from finally being able to talk about the trip with Miss O. It’s hard to keep all the excitement a secret!

We stayed a bit after dinner to poke around in some shops and I bought an ornament in the Disney’s Days of Christmas shop next door to commemorate our trip. We also stopped in the World of Disney, which is a HUGE Disney merchandise shop, because I was dying to get a Chip mug.  The line was ridiculously long for a Sunday night, but maybe that’s normal? It was PACKED. Fortunately, it moved quickly enough to get a cranky 6-year-old out quickly, but not before a small meltdown over ears. I assured Miss O we would have plenty of opportunity to shop for the perfect ears and convinced her to wait until she’d been in at least two parks.

Chip Mug Disney Beauty and the Beast World of Disney Disney Store

We had an early morning for rope drop at Animal Kingdom the next day, so we made it an early night and went back to the Art of Animation. It was just the right experience for Miss O and Mr. A to dip their toes in to their first Disney experience.

Departure day is always bittersweet and this time would be no different. After a long night at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, we did our best to sleep in and have an easy morning. We planned to spend our last day back at Disney Springs to meet some local friends for lunch and spend our last day looking for last minute gifts and souvenirs. Even though I was lucky enough to get late check out, we wanted to take advantage of Remote check in for our luggage that we could do with JetBlue. That meant we needed to have our checked baggage packed and taken to the designated desk by the Big Blue Pool by noon. I was grateful I spent part of our afternoon break during our second day at Magic Kingdom packing. It made the morning so much easier for me.

Hubs and Miss O went to the Landscape of Flavors one last time and returned with some Flounder waffles with bacon and sweet, sweet coffee. We spent a quiet morning eating breakfast and watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. There was no doubt my body was finally starting to feel every step of our week-long trip.

After one last check of the rooms and Hubs shoving as many soaps as he could into his bag, we left our last tip for Mousekeeping and said goodbye to our Finding Nemo Suite. We brought our bags downstairs and spent less than 10 minutes getting them checked in.  We left the bags we would carry on around the corner at luggage assistance for the afternoon and walked to the shuttle area one last time.

Mousekeeping Housekeeping tip gratuity Disney World

Don’t worry, we left a tip each morning.

 

Disney Springs was definitely as busy that day as the first, mostly because it was another weekend day, but also because there’s so much to see there. It’s mostly shopping, but there are some fun stores and it’s worth a day to at least poke around. We met our friends at the Lego store, since it’s an easy landmark and we like to see the Lego sculptures. It’s always fun to see E, D and Miss E, our friends’ daughter who is only months younger than Miss O. The girls instantly remembered each other and set off shopping for new Lego sets.

We made our way to the Earl of Sandwich, one of our favorite quick service places, and though it was very busy, we managed to find a table. The girls got to work on their blind bag Unikitty builds while we waited for our food and caught up. Seeing our local friends does make me wish a little that we hadn’t left Orlando, but overall, it’s better for us in Boston. Besides, visiting with friends is an excellent excuse to plan a trip to Disney!

We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping in the Marketplace Co-Op, Once Upon a Toy, Star Wars Galactic OutPost, Disney’s Pin Traders, Uniqlo, and of course, back to World of Disney. I love that there is a mixture of merchandise that you could see in the park, but also some things exclusive to Disney Springs. I thought about doing a princess makeover at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique for Miss O, but I think she’s past that stage with princesses and my budget was pretty strapped at that point.

The time came to say goodbye to our friends and board the shuttle back to the Art of Animation. It was time for us to collect our bags from luggage assistance and check in for the Magical Express back to the airport. If there is a worst part of a Disney Vacation, it’s sitting at the Magical Express Bus stop. Everyone looks so tired and sad. I know I didn’t really want to go home, but I was ready. Hubs and Miss O were ready, too.

Walt Disney World Disney's Magical Express Bus shuttle

Our first trip as a family was filled with so much fun and magic, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I learned a lot in the planning and as we went through each park. It is definitely a different experience visiting the parks with kids and with an extended family, but it’s so very worth the effort. I can’t wait to do it again!

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